The “sequester” now goes down in history with blowing the surplus, Tora Bora, Iraq, Katrina, the financial crisis and the near-debt default in the GOP’s streak of amazing successes. With a streak like that, the only question is whether they’re better at hurting the country accidentally or on purpose.
When it comes to the sequester, the damage will definitely be done on purpose.
Republicans may want to give credit to the president for these automatic budget cuts, as the AP calls them, but no one doubts that the whole idea that we should reduce the deficit while unemployment is painfully high is basically the GOP’s entire reason for existing for the last four years.
If you had a nickel for every time you were told, “We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem,” you’d be Rupert Murdoch.
While the GOP has been effective in slowing spending, especially on the state and local levels, they haven’t been able to make drastic immediate cuts in federal spending — until now — sorta.
The sequester has gone into effect just days after the Dow tested all-time highs, the housing market showed serious signs of improvement and unemployment claims dropped—suddenly, $85 billion in crude budget cuts that will kill 750,000 jobs will go into effect.
Of course, on Saturday, Republicans began joking that there were no immediate effects. No long airport security lines, no rotten pony meat discovered at Carl’s Jr., no lepers molting in the street.
The cuts will not really be obvious for about 30 days. So for 30 days, Republicans can still veer back and forth, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying the sequester is great and Speaker Boehner saying it’s terrible but he’ll only stop it if Democrats agree to replacing it with other cuts — which would likely destroy an equal number of jobs.
As anyone who has access to a Republican knows, the GOP refuses to consider any tax increases, despite President Obama running and winning on a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction. The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent asked his readers to imagine a world where Mitt Romney won and Democrats demanded a deficit reduction package of only tax cuts.
But there’s no analogy that’s going to shock this GOP into accepting that voters are more interested in closing loopholes for hedge fund managers than cutting kids off Headstart. Even 76 percent of Americans say they want a compromise almost exactly like the president is offering.
Instead, Republicans pretend that the president doesn’t have a plan to replace the sequester. When you link them to the president’s plan, they point out something else they want. When you point out that what they’re suggesting is in the president’s plan, they demand more.
This isn’t an exaggeration. Nearly this exact exchange happened over Twitter with “moderate” Republican strategist Mike Murphy.
When Murphy was forced to acknowledge that the president was willing to make the compromise he was suggesting in order to get the GOP to offer some new revenues, Murphy changed his argument that the president must “move first” on spending and “earn trust.”
In his post “This is why Obama cannot make a deal with the Republicans,” The Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein points out, “Technically, Obama did move first on spending. Over the course of 2011, Obama signed into law a set of bills that cut about $1.8 trillion from discretionary spending, and that included no tax increases at all.”
He added, “It didn’t seem to build much trust.”
The New York Times‘ Paul Krugman adds, “Their objections to the deals on the table aren’t sincere; if convinced that Obama has met their demands, they just make more demands.”
And in a way, this is a good thing. The only thing that has stopped President Obama from buying into the GOP’s feigned concern for the deficit, which immediately disappears when they win the White House, is Republican intransigence.
After Klein posted his summation of Republicans’ antipathy to compromise, Brad Dayspring — a Republican strategist who became a little famous when he stopped an interview between his old boss Eric Cantor and 60 Minutes when it was brought up that Ronald Reagan had raised taxes — tried to convince Klein that the GOP is willing to compromise.
What would that compromise look like?
.@mattyglesias I think chained CPI, raising Medicare age, and means testing are good starting points, yes. I’d do more, but can start there.
— Brad Dayspring (@BDayspring) March 2, 2013
Dayspring is basically describing the “Grand Bargain” the president was about to agree to in 2011. Republicans turned it down. Reportedly, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan wanted voters to decide in 2012 what path to take.
Now, they say they’d like that same deal. At least until President Obama agrees to it again.
And we should thank the GOP for being so unreasonable. Raising the Medicare age would do little to reduce the deficit and greatly hurt poor, aging Americans. There is an alternative idea: just raise the retirement age for wealthy Americans. But getting to that point would require compromise.
That’s not what the GOP is after. They want cuts. Painful cuts. And they’ve finally gotten them. Now, we’ll see if they have the stomach to handle the damage they’ve chosen.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin